“I Just Said It. The State”: Examining the Motivations for Danish Foreign Fighting in Syria

Jakob Sheikh


While several studies of radicalization processes and recruitment to jihadi organizations have been undertaken in European countries, very few are based on interviews with foreign fighters that have been fighting in Syria and/or Iraq. Hence, actual knowledge about the foreign fighters’ inner narratives and motivations remain scarce. This article aims to shed light on how foreign fighters from jihadi organizations in Syria and/or Iraq understand their own actions and behaviour, and what we might overlook when designing counter radicalization measures. Drawing upon 16 in-depth interviews with returned and current foreign fighters from Denmark, the study suggests that while many previous studies emphasize the role of structural socio-economic factors in pushing foreign fighters to travel, several pull factors–some rather counter-intuitive–are also at play. Thus, the very idea of an Islamic State seems to have a significant pull effect on Danish jihadi-travellers, being a driving force in the radicalization process, in the recruitment to jihadist organizations, and on the battlefield.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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